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Sam put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. He knows as much as I do that I can’t let myself scream. But no matter how I tried, the tears still fell. I hate how nightmares always do this do me. Even though I was crying as quietly as I could, a few sounds still escaped from my mouth. He pulled the tangled blue covers away, and lifted me onto his lap. Immediately, I buried my face into his shirt, sobbing even though I was trying so hard to make myself stop.
“Shh,” he whispered, stroking my hair and hugging me close.
“I’m sorry,” was all I could say.
“You think that matters to me?” was his answer. Sam was still in his day clothes from school, which was why I felt the scratchy-ness of his jeans through my horse pee-jays.
“Hey, you okay?” came another voice to our left. I moved my head and saw Kaelub’s hand reaching for mine. I put my small one in his, and when he gave it a soft squeeze I smiled sheepishly, nodding my head to show him that I was feeling a little better. Sam and Kaelub are both in seniors in high school, and I guess they hadn’t gotten a chance to sleep yet.
“What time is it?” I asked, surprised to find that I was yawning seconds after I woke up.
“Maybe one in the morning,” I heard Kaelub reply.
“Is he asleep?” Sam asked his brother, who looked over at the bed which belonged to my foster dad across the room. His question was answered by a horribly loud snore that echoed throughout the blackness of the apartment. For a few minutes we all just sat there on my bed, their backs against the cold wall that had been painted with a color that reminded me of teeth that hadn’t been brushed in days.
“Are you guys scared?” I ended up saying.
Together, they gave me a stern but caring look and shushed me again. “We’re scared for you,” Sam said after a while. I reached up to ruffle his black and somewhat spiky hair with my free hand, and I saw from the moonlight that he was smiling down at me. His bluish-green eyes matched the striped, cream colored sweatshirt that he was wearing. Kaelub, on the other hand, was in a black sweater with one big white stripe across the chest. It was weird with his blond hair, which was cut even shorter than Sam’s. I noticed these things because I wanted to stop myself from thinking about my dream.
“What was the dream about?” came Kaelub’s voice again, since he can read my mind. Sam can do it to, but he tends to let me think on my own, so I can express my thoughts myself.
“Are you sure you want to know?” I said, looking down while a few more tears leaked out of my eyes. Simultaneously, I saw them nod. No matter what people say, they are the strongest people I know, even though other kids call me a liar. “Well,” I began, wiping my eyes and trying to breathe slow, “we lived in a house in the future. There was a powerful company that ruled our town, and they had built these robots that patrolled the streets at night. They were huge,” I said, stretching my arms out REALLY far to show them. They nodded quickly, to show that they were listening and believed every word I said, so I started speaking again: “and brown with bright yellow eyes. Everybody had to leave their lights off at night, because the company didn’t want us doing anything at night. For some reason I had a little sister, and she accidentally turned the light on while…” I had to pause for a second. Saying the next part was going to be hard. For years now I had trouble saying the next word. “Mom…and I were peeking out the curtains. A robot saw the light, and he turned his face towards us, and his yellow bulb eyes looked right at me. The thing was…I swear-“
“Don’t swear,” Sam jumped in jokingly, trying to lighten the mood. Kaelub cracked a smile at that one, and they gave each other a soundless high-five. Since I wanted one too, I reached out my hand, and once they saw it, they both pretended to slam their hands down on mine. At the last second, they stopped and gently placed their palms down.
“Go on. Sorry for interrupting,” Sam told me.
“The thing smiled right at me. It stomped up the driveway, and tore the front door off its…what’s that word?” I used my hands to show them, opening and closing them like a book.
“Hinges,” came Kaelub’s response.
“Hinges, yeah…so five robots come in after the first one. Their programming told them to capture us because we were ‘moving and carbon-based.’ They ordered us to get in these railcars, ‘cause they were going to go to take us to some kind of camp, or jail, or something. We were pushed out of the house, and the railcar was right out front. Mom and my sis got on, and when I placed my foot on the first step to get on, I suddenly wanted to get a stuffed animal. I ran back inside while the robots weren’t looking, grabbed a brown bear, and then ran back outside. But the railcar was already pulling away, and the doors were closed. I ran up as it moved. I pounded on the window, and Mom saw me and yelled at me through the window. I couldn’t hear her. The car was going faster, and I was running to keep up. No matter what I did, it was always faster than I was. It went too fast, and I had to watch it go. I kept yelling and screaming after them ‘Mommy! Mommy!’” I grabbed Sam’s shirt to wipe my eyes. Kaelub scooted closer, and the both of them covered me with their arms in a big hug that I really needed. I wish I knew how long we sat there.
“You could write a book with all that,” And said encouragingly.
“Only if I feel like it,” I murmured stupidly.
“No, no, no,” Sam broke in, “don’t go thinking things like that.” I felt my eyebrows shoot up. Sam never made comments on what I was thinking. Kaelub suddenly jumped in too, agreeing with Sam and protesting even more fiercely.
“Why did she leave?” I burst out, covering my mouth right after for fear of the guy who wasn’t my real dad who still slept in the bed opposite us. But I couldn’t keep my hand over my mouth for very long, because I still wanted to speak my mind. “What did she not like about her life? I think I need to think these things, Kaelub. Sam, you know how it is. If I don’t ask questions they’ll always be there and drive me crazy if I don’t look at them. Was it me?” After I finished nobody said anything. The quiet was far more annoying this time.
A minute passed, and finally Sam copied me by saying what I had already said, “Are you sure you want to know?”
I looked at Sam’s boyish face, and then at Kaelub’s grave one. “If you guys know something and aren’t telling me, I hope you know that that is really mean. Sam…Kaelub…I need you to tell me,” were the words that I chose to say.
Kaelub shifted his position to sit a few feet away, and fished around in one of the pockets of his beige pants. Finally, he had a tiny piece of what sounded like paper in his hands, and he handed it to me.
“What is it?” I asked curiously.
“Can’t you see it?”
“I don’t have night-vision,” I shot back at him.
“Hey, Sam,” he said next, “move a little. Let some of the moonlight in.” Sam did as Kaelub asked, moving me so that a shaft of slivery brightness fell onto the paper.
I stared at in for a second, until finally I said, “A dollar bill?”
“Yes.” Sam admitted reluctantly. I blinked, and tried to understand what they were trying to show me.
“But it’s just a piece of paper that’s been printed with green. I’m her daughter. This paper meant more to her than I did?”
“Over the course of history people have considered paper like that to be far more valuable than you, or me, or Sam.”
“Its paper, though. What do you need it for?”
“Money is everything. It pays for food, clothing, heat, water, buildings, power…you name it, money can buy it.”
“No, you don’t need it,” I insisted, “You can get all those things without it, can’t you?”
Kaelub paused, trying to figure out what to say. I looked up at Sam, thinking he could give me something. He just kept staring in one direction though, and didn’t meet my eyes.
“You don’t need money,” I announced to the two of them, and moves my eyes back and forth to see what they were going to do. In my head I dared them to disagree with me.
Sam finally directed his eyes down at me, and there was no laughter in his eyes. “We can’t really tell you anything you don’t already know, Salty-dog,” he said, using his self-invented nickname for me.
I started to say something, but I was interrupted by my stupid mouth making a funny yawning sound. I giggled, which in turn made them both give a sad smile. Together, they hummed the lyrics of one of my favorite songs. It was a soft one that always made me feel better about everything. It was kind of funny to me that they said nothing was my fault, but they were singing me a song that was as much about forgiveness as love. The vibrations in Sam’s chest made me close my eyes. My thinking always slowed down when this happened, and before my thoughts stopped forming I realized that they were doing this on purpose. Did that matter? Dizziness followed next, which made my head fall sideways into the little crook between Sam’s arm and his chest. His hum faltered as a small little chuckle replaced it. He lifted me up and set me back down on the bed, then got under the covers right next to me, so his back was pressed to the wall. Even though my thoughts were fuzzy, I was able to feel Kaelub get up from the edge of the bed, and then he got in on my other side, so they could make a big cave around me like they did last time. The song flowed on and on, and their shallow breathing ruffled hair on the top of my forehead. Everything became a rhythm after that. Kaelub’s breathing became different for a second, which meant he had opened his mouth wider and stopped humming, while Sam kept going. I could barely hear, but I knew he was singing the lyrics out loud. The last thing I heard before going to sleep were the final words.
* * *
The alarm screamed in my ear, the sun was killing my eyes, and I knew that Sam and Kaelub were gone.
“Wake-y, wake-y kiddo!” came the voice I hated. It was him. I wished this was another dream. My eyes opened to his face right in front of mine. I shivered because of his crazy eyes. “I heard you talking last night,” came his rough speech. I squished my eyes tighter. Hoping that he would leave was not something I should be thinking. Kaelub always told me that, and I believed it to the letter ever since I discovered that my wishes never came true.
“I can’t remember,” I mumbled.
“Liar,” he said, giving me a sick smile, “Try again.”
“Sam and Kaelub. I was talking to them.”
“What have we talked about?” his fake smile vanished, and his voice became louder, “I want to hear you say it.” He grabbed my arm, right where the bruise was.
“They aren’t real.” I mumbled. The words came out funny, since I was biting my lip.
“Good,” was all he said, and that smile was back. He let go and turned his back to go to the bathroom.
I threw off the covers and ran to sit down at the kitchen table.
Another hand fell much softer onto my shoulder, and it nearly scared me to death. “We’re as real as you want us to be,” came Kaelub’s voice from behind.
“You guys are much more real to me than he will ever be,” I said, staring ahead.
Kaelub’s shadow fell across the table a second after that. Sam’s figure leaned on the frame of the door. They were still in the same clothes, like they always were.